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Keywords:

  • Benthic macrofauna;
  • diversity;
  • echo-sounding;
  • habitat;
  • sediment

Abstract

Mapping surveys of coastal benthic habitat in Qeshm Island Geopark, Persian Gulf, were conducted using a combination of biological, sedimentological and echo-sounding data. The survey area covered approximately 233 km2 in a depth range of 5–25 m, and the data were acquired from a single beam echo sounder, grab, video and still photography. Sediment and macrofauna samples were collected by grab at 76 stations and subjected to classification and ordination analyses. Two acoustic classes were identified differentiating along the near/offshore axis. Sediment texture was dominated by fine grain sizes, with five distinct sub-sediment types. In total, 214 macrobenthic taxa were identified, of which polychaetes accounted for 60%. Other dominant groups included young sponges, nematodes, malacostracan crustacean, bivalves, ostracods and ophiuroids. Underwater videos and still photos integrated the macrofaunal and sedimentary data and revealed a range of biogenic sedimentary features such as burrows and tubes. The biological data identified six main biological assemblages showing an inshore/offshore pattern. The macrobenthic abundance did not demonstrate a significant difference with depth, although polychaetes were positively correlated with depth. The highest abundance and species richness were observed at median depths. Species distribution and diversity did not show any correlation with sediment type. A preliminary habitat mapping of the south coast of the Qeshm Island Geopark has been carried out, integrating acoustic, sediment and biological data.